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article imageReview: ‘Coco’ is a striking story that shines brightly in many ways Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 24, 2017 in Entertainment
Pixar’s ‘Coco’ is a vibrant and entertaining adventure that takes audiences to the other side of the day of the dead to provide them with a deeper understanding of the holiday.
Even though many aspects of particular cultures have been monetized, it doesn’t mean everyone has a firm grasp of its original meaning or purpose. Some things are simply adopted because they have an appealing look that can be easily mass-produced while retaining only a loose association with its origins. Sugar skulls are a wildly popular decorative item, however its connection to the Day of the Dead and the reason for the celebration is only vaguely understood by various patrons. Pixar decided to explore the event via their typically accessible storytelling style in their latest picture, Coco.
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a natural musician — a talent that would normally be applauded and nurtured; unfortunately because his great, great grandfather abandoned his family to follow his musical aspirations, music of any kind has been banned for generations. Yet Miguel never gives up his dream of becoming a famous guitarist like his idol and local legend, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). However, an act of desperation to prove his ability on Dia de los Muertos drops him in the land of the dead. Luckily Miguel’s deceased ancestors quickly find him and agree to send him home — if he promises to uphold the family’s music embargo. Unable to make such a sacrifice, he sets off to ask the blessing of someone he hopes will understand with the help of his K9 friend, Dante, and a desperate man named Héctor (Gael García Bernal).
It’s clear there was a lot of effort that went into ensuring the film accurately represents Mexico and its traditions. From the rich and vibrant colour palette to the music to the finer details of the celebration, it is all demonstrative of the country and its people. Even the main voice actors are all of Latin descent and Dante is inspired by a local dog breed called Xoloitzcuintli. The movie appears very hearty with lots of warm hues such as orange, red, brown and yellow, and the Land of the Dead is a stunning creation that combines both fantasy and reality. The animators let their imaginations soar with well-dressed skeletons whose skulls are uniquely adorned, a seemingly endless city of high-reaching houses, massive stadiums and seemingly inescapable class-based districts. Moreover, the opening sequence that’s comprised of meticulous, dramatic paper cut-outs that relate the history of Miguel’s family, and the neon-coloured spirit guides that take various animal-like shapes are all exquisite.
The eye-catching visuals truly complement the captivating and entertaining story, which also depicts several notes of sadness and at least one not-so-surprising betrayal. However, one minor complaint is that it’s a bit long. Running one hour and 50 minutes, even though the narrative remains engaging and the music entrancing, it may not be suitable for shorter attention spans. Nonetheless, this standard story of a character embarking on a winding journey to return to their family still feels unique in this context because it unfolds in a world previously unexplored by the studio and its team of talented, detailed animators.
The feature is preceded by Disney’s animated short, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.”
Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina (co-director)
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt
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